Friday, February 15, 2008

Confessions of a married man

Almost every married comedian I’ve seen eventually comes to the portion of his act where he tells the audience he’s married.

Then he does a series of jokes about how different marriage is from his single days - jokes that give him an excuse to complain about his wife in front of total strangers.

It might go something like this: So I’ve been married four years. (PAUSE JUST IN CASE AN AUDIENCE MEMBER DECIDES TO CLAP FOR REASONS UNBEKNOWNST TO ME) Yeah, four long, happy years. (PAUSE FOR SNICKER FROM AUDIENCE, WHICH ISN’T SURE WHERE THIS BIT IS GOING) Know what’s different about marriage? The bathroom. Guys, you ever notice just how much stuff your wife has in the bathroom?

What the heck is exfoliating cream anyway? I don’t remember her foliating anything in the first place. And now she has to EX-foliate it? But don’t get me wrong, I love her. Even when she goes in there and says she’ll just be a sec and I’ve watched the whole Super Bowl game from 2006 on Tivo and she’s STILL in there! Guys, has that ever happened to you? What’s she doing in there? Exfoliating the entire bathtub? Finally, she comes out and I’m like, ‘honey, what took you so long? She’s like, “I wasn’t in there that long.” And I’m like, “you were in there longer than OJ was in prison.” But she’s a sweetheart, really. Just don’t get me started on her driving.

Okay dude, we get it. You’ll be divorced in two years.

I’ve always shied away from the “what’s different about marriage” jokes just because I think there are more interesting things to laugh about than my relationship with my wife. Plus, I’ve been married 14 years and I’m perfectly happy. I’ve never noticed a difference that might make good comedic material.

Until last weekend.

Something happened last weekend that had nothing to do with my wife yet made me realize that one of my favorite hobbies was gone forever.

It involved beer.

My wife and kids left Friday morning, bound for the Wisconsin Dells and a cheerleading/tumbling tournament featuring my five-year-old daughter.
Hey guys. Know what’s different about marriage? You gotta go to cheerleading/tumbling tournaments!
Okay, that’s not what I’m writing about. But the cheer/tumbling environment is definitely the subject of a future blog.

I stayed behind because I had to catch a flight early the following morning for a corporate show in Mexico. I spent the better part of the day at the computer, writing material, cleaning out my inbox, editing some MP3 clips and doing it all in silence.

Around 4:30 p.m., the phone rang. It was Sue, calling to say she had safely arrived at the Wilderness Resort, one of approximately 574 indoor water parks in the Wisconsin Dells. I’ve never been a huge fan of water parks just because I think there should be federally-imposed limits on the number of people who can congregate publicly in bathing suits. I think the limit should be three.

So while I wasn’t too disappointed that I missed the water park trip, I mentioned to Sue that I was bored. Maybe a little lonely too but I didn’t tell her that. Bored sounds more manly.

“Why don’t you call one of the guys from the neighborhood and go out for a beer?” she replied. “Call Mark. Or Tom. Maybe Ray’s around.”

“I dunno.”

“You should. How often do you get to just hang out with the guys?”
She had a point. My time away from the family is basically spent in airports and hotel rooms.

“You’re right,” I finally said. Maybe I will. How’s the water park?”

“It’s great! There’s hardly anybody here.”
I attributed that to mean there were less than 1,000 people crammed inside.

“Okay, I’ll call you later tonight. Love you,” I said before hanging up.

I stared at the phone. Who should I call? I live in a great neighborhood – actually a vanishing breed of neighborhoods. There are no fences or eight-foot hedges separating the lots; the adults socialize while the kids engage in weekend sleepovers and, so far, nobody’s in the process of divorcing. I know that will change but I’m enjoying the sanctity for now.

Who should I call? More importantly, what should I say?

And here is when I started to realize what’s so different about being married. To wit: the possible repercussions of asking another married guy to go out for a spontaneous beer.

When you’re single and you call another single guy for such a beer, the conversation goes like this:
Hey Ed. It’s Greg. Want to head out in about an hour and have a beer?“I’m getting my coat.”
But if a married guy calls another married guy, the conversation most likely goes like this:
Hey Ed. It’s Greg. Want to head out in about an hour and have a beer? Is everything okay?
Married guys just can’t do anything with other married guys spontaneously. It implies trouble. Worse, because the married guy must first ask permission from his wife, it means she is now part of the story. Ed would have to push the ‘mute’ button on his phone and discuss my strange request with his wife.

ED’S WIFE: Who is it?
ED: It’s Greg Schwem.
ED’S WIFE: What does he want?
ED: He wants to go out for a beer.
ED’S WIFE: Right now?
ED: I guess so.
ED’S WIFE: Where’s Sue?
ED: She’s gone for the weekend with the kids. At least that’s what he said.
ED’S WIFE: Why does he want to go out with you? Is it just you and him? Why did he ask just you? That seems kind of weird, doesn’t it?
ED: Maybe. A little, I guess. You’re friends with Sue. They’re not having any problems, are they? I mean, has she said anything to you?
ED’S WIFE: No, nothing. They seemed perfectly normal at the Christmas party. And the block party. And the progressive dinner.
ED: So what should I say?
ED’S WIFE: Why does he want to go to a bar? Why does alcohol have to be involved? If he’s calling around, it sounds like he’s pretty desperate to have a drink. He doesn’t have a problem, does he?
ED: Not that I know of. So what SHOULD I say?
ED’S WIFE: Tell him you’ll take a rain check.
ED: But we’re not doing anything tonight. What if he REALLY needs somebody to talk to? Should I just leave him at his house alone? What if there IS something going on between him and Sue?
ED’S WIFE: If there is, I’d like to know about it.
ED: Then I probably shouldn’t go. Because if I tell you, you’ll tell everybody.
ED’S WIFE: I will not. Why can’t you give me a little credit for once?
ED: (PUSHING MUTE BUTTON AGAIN) Greg, I’m gonna take a rain check. Maybe next time.

I put the phone down, the imaginary conversation ringing in my head. I punched the OnDemand button on the remote. The Bourne Ultimatum had just been added. I grabbed a beer from the refrigerator, settled into my recliner and hit “buy.” The movie would be over about 9:30. That would mean I’d have time to watch the evening news. In my pajamas. In bed.
Guys, has that ever happened to you? Maybe we should all go out after the show and have a beer. Just get it out of our systems. You’ve been a great crowd. Don’t forget to tip your waitresses!

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